April 30, 2002
COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. – If the mark of a quality team is having players who step forward when the star player is enduring one of the worst offensive games of his career, then the Notre Dame baseball team may be hitting its stride while bidding farewell to a productive month of April – as the Irish used clutch performances from a number of players to overcome an early 3-0 deficit en route to Tuesday night’s 7-4 victory over Michigan, in the seventh annual ND-UM “Baseball Bash” at Fifth Third Ballpark (formerly Old Kent Park, home of the single-A West Michigan Whitecaps).
Notre Dame (31-12) – ranked as high as 19th in the national polls (by Collegiate Baseball magazine) – pushed its winning streak to 13 games and is enjoying a 19-2 run through the month of April, extending a trend from the eight-year Paul Mainieri era that has seen the Irish win 82% of their games in April during the 1995-2002 seasons (158-36, including 20-2 in 2001).
The 13-game winning streak matches the second-longest of the Mainieri era (also April 8-23, 1998) and is tied for seventh-longest in the program’s 110-year history, with the 2001 Irish squad winning 16 straight from April 4-25 of last season (that ’01 streak is tied for third all-time at ND).
The Irish still trail the all-time series versus their first-ever and fourth-most-common opponent (41-74) but Notre Dame holds a 6-3 edge vs. Michigan in the Mainieri era, including 5-2 in the Baseball Bash games. The Irish have won the last five regular-season meetings vs. the Wolverines (all in Comstock Park), with UM winning a 1999 NCAA Tournament game at ND’s Eck Stadium (its only win in the series since 1997).
Michigan (13-26) plated a run in the bottom of the first and added two more in the second versus junior righthander Peter Ogilvie but the Wolverines managed just one run the rest of the way versus freshman righthander Grant Johnson (4-4) and junior righthander J.P. Gagne, who entered the day ranked 38th in the nation for ERA (2.29) before maintaining that number with four more solid innings of relief work (one run on three hits and no walks, with four strikeouts).
Johnson lowered his season ERA to 3.70 after facing just 11 batters from the 3rd-5th innings, allowing one hit and two walks with two Ks.
Several Irish players helped overcome just the third career 0-for-5 game for senior centerfielder Steve Stanley (who entered the day batting .467 for the season) and a 1-for-5 night from the team’s second-leading hitter, junior leftfielder Brian Stravinsky (.420).
Senior third baseman Andrew Bushey – who continued to play stellar defense while logging his 21st consecutive game without an error (he has just five Es all season, with 34 error-free games) – put the Irish on the board in the fourth inning with a patented opposite-field, two-run double that bounced off the wall in left-center field.
Senior DH Matt Bok later added to his growing list of big hits with the go-ahead single (4-3) in the three-run top of the sixth while junior shortstop Javier Sanchez became the first player from either team to hit a home run in the last three Baseball Bashes.
Sanchez launched a two-run shot over the leftfield wall for his third home run of the season (fourth-most on the team), giving Gagne some breathing room at 7-3 heading into the bottom of the 8th (when UM scored its final run).
Junior rightfielder Kris Billmaier continued his recent surge by batting 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored (his well-executed hit-and-run single preceded Bushey’s two-run double). Billmaier pushed his season average to .299, including 7-for-13 in the last four games and 17-for-45 (.378) during the 13-game winning streak.
Michigan junior lefthander Rich Hill struck out all six batters he faced in the first two innings but the Wolverines went on to use five pitchers over the final seven frames. Freshman righthander Phil Tognetti (0-3) was tagged with the loss, after allowing three runs on four hits and two walks while tossing the 5th-7th innings.
See more game notes below linescore (on p. 2).
NOTRE DAME (31-12) 0-0-0 2-0-3 0-2-0 – 7 9 1
MICHIGAN (13-26) 1-2-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 – 4 9 1
Peter Ogilvie, Grant Johnson (3; W, 4-4), J.P. Gagne (6; SV, 2) and Paul O’Toole.
Rich Hill, Matt Collins (3), Jim Brauer (4), Phil Tognetti (5; L, 0-3), Joe Young (8), Kirk Taylor (9) and Jake Fox.
Home Run: Javier Sanchez, ND (one on in 8th; 3rd of season).
Doubles: Andrew Bushey, ND (48th career), Blake Rutkowski (UM), Brock Koman (UM. Brandon Roberts (UM), Fox (UM).
POSTGAME NOTES (Notre Dame 7, Michigan 4 – April 30, 2002)
RARE NIGHT FOR STANLEY – Senior centerfielder Steve Stanley – who hit 8-for-15 at Old Kent Park in the three previous Baseball Bashes – joined Gagne in heading into the tilt ranked among the national leaders, checking in at sixth on the batting average list (.467, with just four strikeouts) and 25th in stolen bases (27). But in a true testament to his lofty status as a national player-of-the-year candidate, even Stanley’s failures end up providing impressive statistical notes:
* His two strikeouts vs. UM represented his first multiple-K game in the last 95, since striking out twice in the 3-0 win vs. New Mexico to open the Fresno State Classic, (March 12, 2001).
* It also marked just the sixth time in 231 career games that Stanley had struck out more than once, with his only 3-K game coming in his third game with the Irish (Feb. 20, 1999, at Florida International) – as part of his 0-for-17 start that preceded his current .380 career average.
* He had struck out just four times in 196 plate appearances this season.
* Stanley’s 0-for-5 night marked his first hitless game with at least five at-bats in the last 175 games, since a pair of 0-for-5 games at St. John’s late in the 1999 season (May 15-16).
* His 231 games at Notre Dame include just 44 hitless games (one 0-for-0 with 2 BB), with just three 0-for-5 games and 18 times going 0-for-4 (one in last 50).
* He had hits in 38 of the previous 42 games this season and in 45 of his last 49 with the Irish.
* The game signaled the first time in 62 games that Stanley did not reach base via a hit or walk (excluding his short stint earlier this season vs. Valparaiso, when he was hitless in only two plate appearances) – dating back to an 0-for-4/no-walk game in last season’s 4-2 loss Valpo (April 25, 2001).
GAME NOTES – ND’s regular leftside infielders – Bushey (0) and Sanchez (2) – have made just two errors between them in the last 10 games, with Sanchez posting 30 error-free games in his first season ever at shortstop (following the season-ending injuries to freshmen Matt Macri and Matt Edwards) … sophomore 2B Steve Sollmann also has a low error total (5), including just one E in his last 16 games … Bushey (0), Sollmann (1) and Sanchez (2) have combined for a sparkling .971 fielding pct. in the last 10 games (the team’s other 11 errors in that last 10 games include two by pitchers, three by reserve infielders, one by catcher Paul O’Toole, a controversial dropped-ball call vs. Stanley and an uncharacteristic four Es by 1B Joe Thaman) … ND entered the day ranked 8th in the nation for ERA (3.32, now 3.34) … ND again scored more runs (7) than it left on base (6), with the Irish riding an efficient eight-game streak in which they have totaled 15 more runs scored (69) than runners stranded (54) … Gagne – who ranks 3rd among the BIG EAST’s ERA leaders) – entered the game having not been credited for a run allowed in his previous six outings (all in relief), with his shutout streak reaching 21 innings before UM scored in the 8th … his last seven outings include a 4-0 record, two saves and an 0.40 ERA, plus 18 Ks, just 4 walks and 13 hits allowed in that 22.2-inning span … Bushey owns an impressive .966 season fielding pct., after posting a solid .941 (13 Es) in 2001 … the only winning streaks in ND history longer than the current 13-game run came in 1991 (18), 1907 (17), 1988 and 2001 (both 16), 1910 (15) and 1993 (14).
RECORD BOOK WATCH – Stanley ironically claimed the ND record for career at-bats (902), passing former teammate Alec Porzel (897; ’98-’01), to go along with his Irish records for hits (343), stolen bases (11) and consecutive starts (231) … O’Toole played in his 215th career game, one shy of cracking the ND top 10 (catcher Bob Lisanti played in 216 from ’92-’96) … Bushey’s 48th career double ties him with Joe Binkiewicz (’92) for 9th on the ND all-time list, just two back of another ’92 grad. (Craig Counsell) and Irish career home run leader Jeff Wagner (’96-’99).
BIG EAST UPDATE – ND and Virginia Tech (both 11-6, .647) – following an off-week from conference play – essentially are in a four-way tie atop the BIG EAST standings, narrowly trailing Boston College and Rutgers (both 13-7, .650) while Connecticut sits at 12-7 (.632, earlier game vs. Villanova lost to rain) … the teams with the top-four winning percentages after the 26-game schedule will advance to the BIG EAST Tournament (Monday’s are a mandatory makeup day for three-game weekend series, excluding the final weekend) … ND would clinch a higher finish than BC and RU by going at least 2-1 in its final three series (May 4-5 vs. RU, May 11-12 in Philadelphia vs. Villanova, May 17-18 vs. BC), with the Irish already owning the head-to-head tiebreaker vs. VT (UConn has ND on the tiebreaker) … BC takes on St. John’s (10-10) this week, followed by a bye-week, a home series vs. VT and the trip to ND … after facing ND, Rutgers has a bye and closes at St. John’s … VT still has to host UConn and play at BC before wrapping up at home vs. West Virginia (6-11) … after playing VT, UConn has a bye and finishes at Pittsburgh (8-9).